Vernon R. Hanson passed away at home October 15, 2013 in Seattle of Alzheimer's Disease. He was born July 2, 1932 to Myrtle and Arley Hanson in the small farming community of Fairfield, Montana and moved to the Puget Sound region with his family at the age of 10. He graduated from Ballard High School then Pacific Lutheran College. He served in the U.S. Army for two years. After marrying Marlis Majerus in 1958 he attended Luther Seminary; his first child, Erik, was born while he interned in Fort Worth, Texas. Vern went on to serve as a Lutheran minister for five years in Medford, Oregon where his children Dayna and Kyle were born.
Vern’s passion for social and economic justice during the civil rights era and Vietnam War led him away from the parish toward a career in social work. After earning a master’s degree from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago in 1970 he returned with his family to Tacoma, Washington where he influenced many students during his 24 years as professor in the Social Work Department at Pacific Lutheran University. At PLU he initiated innovative programs aimed at broadening experiential learning opportunities, including the Cooperative Education program, New World House and Second Wind, a learning program for the elderly. During the 1980s he and Marlis led student groups to Nicaragua, El Salvador and Mexico for experiences that combined service, education and social justice work.
A lifetime sports lover, Vern played varsity baseball and basketball in high school and college. He remained physically active until Alzheimer’s slowed him down in recent years. While in his 50s he developed an interest in Tai Chi that continued after his retirement. In 1996 he founded the Tai Chi, Qigong, and Self Care Center of Tacoma; his Tai Chi practice took him to China for study several times.
Vern was a talented artist and continued drawing and painting until shortly before his death. His family cherishes his body of work, including many studies of Taylor Bay, site of the Hanson cabin on the Key Peninsula. He took great pleasure in writing; both his prose and poetry show wit, sensitivity and close observation of humanity. A natural designer and builder, he undertook dozens of projects throughout his life, from woodcarvings and furniture to treehouses, studios and cabins. He was a music lover as well: A gifted piano player, he entertained family and friends with his repertoire of favorites even through his disease.
Vern was a generous presence in the lives of his children and grandchildren. Walks on the beach, overnights at the cabin, camping trips, baseball games, driving lessons and pancake breakfasts are among the many treasured memories his grandchildren will share. To his kids and others, he could be counted on to lend a hand in any way imaginable, at any time.
His kindness, humor and open-minded integrity have made a deep imprint on the lives of Vern’s family and friends. Always striving for his best he led modestly, by example. His unique career path, driven by strong progressive beliefs and values, inspired those around him; his ready smile and enjoyment of other people endeared him to all he met. He lovingly supported others, both in the pursuit of their dreams and in their moments of struggle.
Vern retained his gentle, accepting spirit through his years with the disease. He will be greatly missed by Marlis, his wife of 55 years; children Erik, Dayna and Kyle; their partners Debra, Dave and Lori; grandchildren Henry, Linus, Isaac, Celia and Harry; and brothers Bob and Merle. Vern is preceded in death by his parents, Myrtle and Arley Hanson, and brother Russell Gilbertson. A celebration of Vern's life will be held in early January, 2014; details to follow.